Emulating At the Form, Process and System Level

Based on the large number of case studies, emulating nature's forms appears to be relatively easy.  Our knowledge of nature's processes is growing (see page 33 of Julian Vincent's Workshop Talk at the March 2011 Bio-Inspired Workshop in Palo Alto) but it is still often easier, cheaper and faster to follow the 'heat, beat and treat' path. 

Connecting the two data points and extrapolating suggests that emulating systems will be even more difficult, which appears to be supported by the limited number of verified case studies.  A few that come to mind are John Todd's Living Machines, the Wakefield 'cardboard to caviar' industrial ecology project and REGEN Energy's power controllers.  As in emulating process, we often lack a good understanding of how natural systems work at a detailed level.  On the other hand, systems solutions can be built from 'off the shelf' components.  Although the components are important, the innovation in a systems solution is often determined by how the components interact amongst themselves and with the environment.  

Understanding Complex Situations - a Fish Story

The BBC article Nature's spring: Cod bounce back by Richard Black describes the collapse of Atlantic cod stocks that led to the 1993 fishing moratorium.  Unfortunately, the ban on fishing did not result in the expected recovery, for reasons that have been hotly debated.  The recently published paper Transient dynamics of an altered large marine ecosystem suggests that predatory species such as cod, haddock and saithe (pollock) may be making a comeback due to a complex series of interactions and feedback loops.

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